The Tea Dance

For those beginning to feel their forties

I’m standing facing the teapot which sits on the counter. It weighs 4lbs 3oz — nearly 2 kilos. I am tired and not present in my body. I lift the teapot one handed, like a machine; my body is locked, motionless while my arm levers the dead weight from the counter.

When did I start to behave so mechanically? What pernicious belief was it that took root and infected my locomotory behavior? I can’t be sure, but as I stand holding that pose, I go back to my early childhood, noticing how little effort my father seemed to take in lifting or turning things. He was a giant to me, superhuman; he lifted immovable objects and he tightened tops, taps and faucets with Samsonian force. To be like him and to make it appear effortless, I seem to recall, I simply stiffen in order to make my tiny little muscles stand out so that I can appear strong. There are myriad cultural influencers in the Cartesian split between body and mind but this one is self inflicted and after 25 years of tai chi I am only just beginning to notice it.

Not everyone, by any means, is divorced from their system, but while seemingly innocuous, I have noticed it is widespread. If the arm that lifts the heavy teapot is disconnected from the rest of the body, in thirty or so years it will ache. Repetitive strain can live anywhere: in wrists, elbows, shoulders, hips, knees, backs and necks, not to mention minds, and it can then be eligible for one of the dozens of different diagnoses offered by the medical industrial complex (I say with tongue only partially in cheek).

Oh yes, the tea… if I don’t want to get a repetitive strain injury, I will allow my hips to initiate the motion, sinking slightly as I lift, and distributing the strain — weaving the weight — from the leading hand to the opposite side of my body and back again.

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